Miloslav Stasek is the Ambassador of the Czech Republic to Nepal with residence in New Delhi. H.E. Stasek who is about to complete his five-year term as the envoy to the region recently visited Kathmandu to, among other things, say farewell to dignitaries of the Government of Nepal and visit the Czech Republic’s Honorary Consulate. Akhilesh Tripathi of New Business Age caught up with the outgoing envoy at the Tribhuvan International Airport minutes before he boarded his flight to New Delhi. Excerpts:
How would you describe relations between the Czech Republic and Nepal?
I think there’s been a long-term positive relationship between the Czech Republic and Nepal. The main task for the two countries now is to work on this relationship and take it further. Obviously, due to the post-earthquake situation and ongoing political disputes in Nepal, many investment projects are halted and many economic activities disrupted. But this all will change gradually and the Czech Republic as a reliable partner of Nepal wants to be a part of this endeavour and feels committed to strengthen its presence in the country.
In January 2015, Czech Minister for Industry and Trade, Jan Mládek and Nepal’s Minister for Finance, Ram Sharan Mahat, signed an Agreement on Economic Cooperation. Based on this agreement, a Joint Nepal-Czech Committee shall meet annually. In the past years, we also managed to establish good relations between the Czech Chamber of Commerce and FNCCI. Furthermore, in 2013 the Confederation of Nepalese Industry and the Confederation of Industry of the Czech Republic signed a Memorandum of Understanding. Firm and solid grounds are there for strong future cooperation.
What about trade between the two countries?
We can see more and more Czech brands in Nepal; many cars and aircraft made in the Czech Republic are being used in Nepal. In addition to this, there is a prospect for Czech brands to sell even more.
The Czech Republic imports Nepali textiles and handicrafts and the Czechs love Nepali products. The volume of trade between the two countries has increased a lot over the last five years. In addition to this, it is also important that there are many Czech tourists coming to Nepal every year mainly looking for adventure like hiking, trekking, bungee jumping etc. This is also a very important part of our relationship.
During the recent quake, many organizations from the Czech Republic came to Nepal to provide medical help and conduct rescue and rehabilitation programmes. Many Czechs organized different campaigns and public money collections to help victims of the natural disaster. We are also focused on rebuilding devastated schools and houses. There are so many NGOs and INGOs working in Nepal maintaining a good relationship between the two countries through the exchange of services and skills.
Another thing that the Czechs are helping to build is bamboo schools. We are building these schools using red mud, bamboo and locally available materials. Czech architects have designed such schools which proved to be very resistant even during the earthquake. We are keen to extend this project to the mountainous areas as well.
How about the B2B contacts between our two countries? Umbrella business organizations like CNI have signed agreements with their Czech counterparts. How fruitful has this engagement been?
These initiatives and contacts started to flourish especially during the past five years. There have been ministerial-level visits from both sides and we are planning to continue maintaining high-level relations and intensify them. This is very important because what we need to do is to bridge the trade gap between our two nations and exploit the mutual potential to the fullest. This understanding should be sustained and developed as this will lay the foundation for a long-term thriving relationship between the two countries.
Do you think Czech companies will invest in Nepal?
Yes, indeed! This is what we have been working on tirelessly. Czech businesses are interested to invest and cooperate with their Nepali partners in the fields of energy, water management, hydropower, agriculture and transportation and in many other areas where we can share our expertise and know-how.
Nepal is in the process of making a new constitution. The draft of the constitution says domestic investment will be encouraged in hydroelectricity.
Czech companies have already started supplying spare and major parts to different hydro projects. We are also already cooperating with various Indian companies in order to make investment easier and to expand the field of our activities in Nepal.